Case study: National Trust for Scotland, Experiencing Collections
The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) is a charity protecting and telling the stories of over 100 places in Scotland. NTS’ Collections Review and five-year organisational strategy placed the emphasis on services and story-telling as tools for greater engagement and growth.
The Experiencing Collections project is a three-stage process and was designed to run across six properties. Scotinform was delighted to be commissioned to undertake the first stage of the research, creating insights into how visitors currently interact with the collections at historic properties and creating a benchmark for further development.
The purpose of the research was to assess the impact of collections and interiors on the visitor experience, and to identify possible triggers for repeat visitation. The six properties selected by the Trust were: Culzean Castle; Gladstone’s Land; Haddo House; Kellie Castle; Newhailes House and Pollok House. This portfolio was widely varied in terms of historical periods, operating models, geography, visitor numbers and size of collection.
The scope of the project and the differences between the properties required a tailored research programme for each of the sites. We started the project with a mystery visit to each of the properties, allowing us to understand the visitor experience. Subsequent meetings with the property managers and curators allowed us to better understand the characteristics of each site. We were then able to develop a bespoke research programme that aimed to answer the core questions whilst reflecting the individuality of each site and taking varying operating practices (tour format, use of spaces for events) into account.
Qualitative research methodologies come to the fore when understanding visitor responses to items and stories, and we used a combination of observation and post-visit depth interviews to gain greater insight.
The importance of creating a “benchmark” against which interventions can be assessed also necessitated a quantitative element, so we created a face to face questionnaire that could be completed by fieldworkers at the properties or distributed by email to visitors who were unable to stay on after their visit had finished. This approach allowed us to understand more about pre-visit behaviour and general responses to collections, as well as drilling down into specific responses to each property.
We were able to provide the property managers and curators at each of the properties with a specific and detailed overview of visitor response to the collections and stories at their properties. In some cases this was a new perspective; in others it gave staff evidence to support their own future plans and strategies.
The six sites are currently changing the storytelling approach to collections in line with our recommendations, and will review their effectiveness against our benchmarks later in 2019.
“Scotinform cared about the outcomes of our research and worked closely with us to make sure that research findings were not only rooted in experience but that the next stage of our project got ‘buy-in’. They provided a deep analysis of our visitors’ experience grounded in sound qualitative and quantitative research, giving us new, practical insights. Scotinform felt like an ally in our quest to know more.”
David Hopes, Head of Collections and Interiors
We can hit the ground running. Our knowledge of the sector meant that we had worked with many of these properties previously and ensured that we got to grips with the project quickly.
We know that one size does not fit all. We are not bound by our proposal and are prepared to adjust the research methodology to ensure that we give you the information you need to make good decisions.
We are happy to engage with your staff – taking the time to get to know the staff who would be using the research was vital to the success of the project.